American Elephants

Making the Catastrophe Worse, Step by Step! by The Elephant's Child

Seventy Days in:

The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.

The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high-speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete…

Three days after the BP Deepwater Horizon Rig blew up on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill — one much larger than the spill that was then under way. The chairman of Spill Response Group Holland said that each Dutch ship had more cleanup capacity than all the ships the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that the equipment wouldn’t capture all of the oil gushing from the well, the Dutch also offered to help the U.S. with a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers.  A Dutch research institute specializing deltas, coastal areas and rivers developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile long sand dikes within three weeks.

Why didn’t it happen? First of all there’s the Jones Act (the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) intended to protect maritime unions, which precludes a foreign flagged ship from operating near the U.S. Coast.  In the case of Katrina, the Jones Act was waived by the Bush Administration within 3 Days. That’s not all, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules.  The Dutch ships can suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water.  That is not good enough for U.S. regulators.  Better to have no oil soaked up than return water that has more than 15 parts per million of oil to the Gulf of Mexico.  Water that is not 99.9985%pure is just not good enough.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires regions to have minimum levels of equipment such as booms and skimmers.

Admiral Allen, the incident commander, said that there are “discussions we’re having across the entire country where we have equipment that’s out there as a requirement — legal requirement to cover spill response of those areas — and how we might free those up.  That’s a work in progress inside the administration right now. ”

The head of French oil spill response company. Ecoceane, said the Jones Act and other difficulties getting through to BP prevented his company from putting boats to work sooner.  He has boats to work offshore, but also smaller models to work in shallower inland waters.  In the end, he sold nine spill response boats to a Florida company last week.  That makes them American boats and gets around Jones Act problems.

The spill is tangled in a web of red-tape, with way too many officials in charge of conflicting regulations, conflicting power, conflicting responsibility.  Allen may be the incident commander, but apparently he does not have any overriding authority, so everything winds up in endless debates and discussions.  A textbook case of how to bungle a crisis.  One of the first things they did was to send down a bunch of lawyers.

Obama Knew From His First Briefing That The Spill Might Go On For Months. by The Elephant's Child

Obama was apparently told by Carol Browner,  his Energy Czar,  at one of the earliest briefings that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion would lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster.  That capping a well at such depths had never been done before, and that they should expect an oil spill that might well continue until a relief well was drilled — probably to be completed by August.

The early briefing and the technical challenges involved may have given the Obama team the fatalistic notion that there was nothing they could do.  No one has blamed Obama because he has not stopped the spill.  The negative stories are a direct reflection on the president’s  response to the spill, to BP, to the people of the Gulf, and to the public in general.  He has not been straightforward.  He cannot make up his mind whether to attack BP or to criminalize their actions.  Offering all the assistance of the federal government,  suspending regulations that get in the way, seeing that the EPA responds to queries promptly and doing everything possible to protect the beaches doesn’t seem to have been done.  Poor public relations.  A little graceful appreciation for all the hardworking people who are doing their best, and a quick response to Governor Jindal’s requests would be more in order.

(h/t: Gateway Pundit)

Don’t Let a Crisis Go To Waste — Make it Worse! by The Elephant's Child

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded, the response of the White House has struck many Americans as somewhere between off-the-mark and completely incompetent.  This White House, it seems, can look at things only through the lens of politics.

The administration apparently thought the explosion might be a short-lived disaster, and they should hunker down and wait for it to blow over.  After some nine days, it revealed itself as a very big deal indeed, and the administration hastened to claim that they were completely on top of it.  It became almost comical as each representative of the administration appeared on television assuring the public that they had been “on top of it from Day One.” And the White House published a time line to demonstrate just how on top of everything they had actually been — including gallons of oil sopped up and feet of oil boom located.

I may have looked in the wrong places, but the only place I could find that listed the names of the men who lost their lives was a piece in Forbes.  Plenty of mention elsewhere on the potential effects on wildlife.  As Investors pointed out:

In crisis, character is inevitably revealed. That this president has looked so inept in handling both the spill itself and the negative public opinion it was bound to bring is a testament to his lack of preparation for the office.

No executive experience, virtually no private-sector business experience, no military service, no real responsibility for decision-making that has real-world consequences — this was President Obama’s resume when he was sworn in.

Now it shows in his botched response to the BP spill. From the April 20 explosion that blew up the well and killed 11 oil workers to now, the steps Obama has taken have been strangely political.

Obama first welcomed BP’s efforts, assuming that when they were successful the credit would be shared with the administration.  Then frustration, “Just plug the damn hole,” Obama said, and as one solution after another failed, polls showed the president’s support dropping, even Democrats began urging Obama to do something.  Obama came out hostile.  I’m in charge, he said.

Now the White House is “distancing itself” from both BP and the oil spill.  Instead of trying to offer all possible assistance to the oil industry who are after all, the ones who know what remedies can potentially work.  Obama’s angry pose is supposed to assure angry Americans that he is on their side.  Eric Holder has sent a team of lawyers down to search for possible criminal behavior.  Just when you want full BP attention on solutions, they need to lawyer up?

Some are urging massive fines, boycotts, anything to punish BP.  Democrats in Congress are pushing for new taxes on oil companies to “pay for” the disaster, as a way to pass the unbelievably disastrous cap-and-trade bill.

We need a little common sense here.  BP is expending millions of dollars and engineering expertise in trying to stop the spill.  No one has more invested in finding a solution than BP.  They need support in their efforts.  And the last thing the people of the Gulf states need is for the administration to shut down their entire oil industry, when forces beyond their control are damaging so many other industries — fishing, shrimping, tourism and their economy.

President Obama has a vision in his head of a “clean energy economy.” This apparently occurs when he makes petroleum prohibitively expensive, and shuts down the coal industry.  He has said that he wants to bankrupt the coal industry. One half of our electric energy is generated by coal-fired plants.

There is no hope that half of our electric energy can, in the foreseeable future, be supplied from wind, solar, geothermal, or biofuels.  It would be a very long time before it could be supplied by nuclear power plants — if there were a complete change in permitting, lawsuits, environmentalist objections and expense.

It is clear that Obama wants to force everyone into electric cars, but they are years from being even feasible, let alone suitable for the mass market.  I guess it is the messiah complex.  He has only to end dirty fossil fuels and he will, what?, snap his fingers and make all these unworkable, unaffordable, economy-destroying fantasies become reality?

The disastrous experience of Spain and Denmark who have most heavily invested in wind power, serious studies by energy industry experts — nothing seems to make the slightest impression.  He is not letting this Gulf crisis “go to waste,” he is using it to shut down oil exploration and drilling in Alaska, and his allies are attempting to put all of Alaska, including the National Petroleum Reserve out of reach, permanently.  What can he possibly be thinking?

When Obama Hit The Panic Button: by The Elephant's Child

The Energy Tribune has an article by Geoffrey Styles, titled “The Panic Button.” The President’s decision to halt 33 exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf  of Mexico will compound the economic damage to a Gulf Coast already reeling from the impact of the spill.

I suppose it was inevitable that we would arrive at the moment in the ongoing oil spill crisis at which the baby would be thrown out with the bath. That moment came at about 7 minutes into President Obama’s press conference on the spill Thursday, May 27. After announcing the suspension of offshore drilling in Alaska, the cancellation of planned lease sales for the Gulf of Mexico and Virginia, and the extension for six months of his administration’s moratorium on new drilling permits for deepwater wells, he ordered a halt to 33 exploration wells currently being drilled in the Gulf, excluding the two relief wells for the leaking Macondo prospect. Everything up until that point could be considered as reasonable, prudent, and expected responses by an administration faced with an unprecedented and still-unfolding environmental and economic disaster. But while stopping work on the 33 projects already underway might look like prudence to some, it could ultimately have economic consequences rivaling those of the spill.

Never hurts to get a little sensible response.

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